Travel Guide to Canada
FOOD: A TASTE OF CANADA
Culinary tourism is a force of nature in Canada. From walking food tours of cities to tasty rural trails, there is a cornucopia of good eats on the road. Creative young chefs reinterpret Canada’s regional dishes, showcase ethnic influences and play with exotic spicing. Heirloom produce from local farms, indigenous wild foods foraged from the forests, organic meats and fresh seafood fished from the oceans and lakes are among their cherished ingredients. Sustainable, artisanal and locavore are their buzz words.
BRITISH COLUMBIA BOUNTY FROM THE OCEAN, FORESTS & LAND
Specialties on the menu in British Columbia include wild salmon, golden honey mussels, spot prawns, geoduck, BC bison, Fraser Valley duck and Salt Spring Island lamb.
There is a wide range of guided culinary tours—sometimes led by chefs— in southern B.C., particularly near the Okanagan Valley, Cowichan Valley and Fraser Valley. City tasting tours in Victoria, Vancouver and Whistler visit restaurants and culinary neighbourhoods (www. hellobc.com).
Cornucopia Whistler, celebrating 23 years in November, is an annual 11-day indulgence of local food and drink that pairs homegrown chefs with top B.C. producers, breweries, distilleries and wineries (www.whistlercornucopia.com).
St. Lawrence, a Québécois eatery in Vancouver under Québec-born chef J.C. Poirier, and The Courtney Room, a haute meat and seafood spot in Victoria, were in the top ten Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2018 by Air Canada’s enRoute magazine (www.canadasbestnewrestaurants.com).
Off the Eaten Track offers fun foodie tours such as the Gourmet Ice Cream & Pizza Tour of Vancouver and the Chocolate and Churches tour of Victoria (www. vancouver.offtheeatentracktours.ca). On the Wild Foraging – BC Rainforest Lunch & Walk, offered by Swallow Tail Culinary Tours, participants discover native B.C. ingredients in the forest: fiddleheads, licorice fern, big leaf maple flowers, nettles, oyster mushrooms and wild chamomile, to name a few (www.swallow tail.ca). Edible Canada on Granville Island offers a restaurant, artisan retail shop and handpicked gift baskets containing locally-made gourmet products (www. ediblecanada.com).
THE PRAIRIES GRASSLAND GRAINS AND RANCHLAND MEATS
Manitoba’s Parkland region has a selfguided Cinnamon Bun Trail with about seven trail stops along the way (www.park landtourism.com/cinnamon-bun-trail). In season, Winnipeg’s Exchange District BIZ offers tours to some of their delectable oneof-a-kind restaurants (www.exchangedistrict .org/tours/food-tours). West End BIZ covers the eateries in the west end of the city (www. westendbiz.ca/west-end-restaurant-tours). Eating and drinking tours of the downtown area feature cocktail crawls, beer and appetizer tours and even breakfast samplings (www.downtownwinnipegbiz.com/events).
Saskatchewan has more than 40 percent of Canada’s farmland and Saskatoon’s culinary scene takes full advantage of it. Chef Dale Mackay at Ayden Kitchen and Bar, The Food Network’s Top Chef Canada season one winner, shows off the bounty of the land (www.aydenkitchenandbar.com). The Night Oven Bakery which uses local, organic and heirloom grains such as red fife, mills the flour in-house and bakes in a wood-fired brick oven, puts out the best breads and pastries imaginable (www.thenightoven.ca).
In Alberta, as Canada’s ranch heartland, elk, bison, wild boar, caribou and beef— which many refer to as Canadian Rocky Mountain Cuisine—are plentiful. Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts has its own 540 acre game ranch to provide for its two restaurants in the City of Calgary and dining at the lodges in Banff, Lake Louise and Emerald Lake (www.crmr.com/mountaincity-restaurants-rockies). Chuck’s Steak House in Banff offers a full-on taste of Alberta raised beef with a platter containing 5 oz. each of wagyu, prime and grass fed dryaged steaks (www.chuckssteakhouse.ca).
COUNTLESS TASTE TRAILS AND FOOD FESTIVALS
Home to the Ontario Pork Council, Stratford, famous for the Stratford Festival, boasts a Bacon & Ale Trail along with a Chocolate Trail and seasonal trails such as Foraging for Wild Edibles (www. visitstratford.ca).
In Prince Edward County, pop into a cidery, brewery, or ice cream shop for a cold treat or sample fine pinots and chardonnays at wineries in this picturesque area on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Check out the cool cocktail and food scene at the Drake Devonshire (www.thedrake.ca), enjoy fresh laid eggs for breakfast at one of the bucolic B&Bs such as Wilfrid Boutique Farmhouse (www.thewilfrid.com) or sign up for a cooking class to learn the tools of the trade at The Waring House (www. waringhouse.com).
Butter tarts were a staple of pioneer cooking in both Upper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Québec). The townships of Mapleton, Minto, Southgate, Wellington North and West Grey’s self-guided Butter Tarts and Buggies Trail combines these sweetly delicious pastries with insights into the Mennonite culture (www.butter tartsandbuggies.com).
Ottawa is home to the only Canadian campus of the renowned Le Cordon Bleu French cooking school (www.cordonbleu. edu/ottawa). C’est Bon’s gourmet walking tours are an ideal introduction to the National Capital Region’s vibrant food scene (www.cestboncooking.ca/gourmetfood-tours).
Ontario has some 450 annual culinarythemed festivals and events many of which are listed in their on-line calendar (www. ontarioculinary.com).
A GOLDMINE OF FRENCHCANADIAN SPECIALTIES
New France’s first inhabitants ate hearty meals to cope with the rigours of everyday life and the cold winter climate—evolving a distinct home-cooking style over the centuries that became Québec classics, such as: tourtière, meat and pork pie; cipaille, a layered wild meat pie; fèves au lard, baked beans; cretons, a fatty pork spread; tarte au sucre, sugar pie; and soupe aux gourganes, broad bean soup (www.quebecoriginal.com/ en-ca/savour).
Maple syrup plays a big role in traditional food with more than 13,000 producers in the province. In spring, Québécois gather at some 200 cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks) to enjoy baked beans, oreilles des crisse (crispy pork rinds), and pancakes all drenched in maple syrup (www.quebecoriginal.com/ en-ca/savour/sugaring-season-is-here).
A dish that has gained North American recognition is poutine—french fries topped with cheese curds, then slathered in gravy. On the Route to Gourmet Delights in central Québec (www.tourismecentreduquebec.com), Fromagerie Lemaire offers poutine in its country-style restaurant and still warm curd cheese to eat while watching the cheesemakers at work through a panoramic window.
From Petite-Rivière-Saint-François to La Malbaie, epicureans treat themselves to a gastronomic adventure on the Charlevoix Flavour Trail which features some 24 specialty producers and 20 restaurants (www.tourisme-charlevoix.com/en/whatto-do/routes-and-circuits/flavour-trail).
The Eastern Townships, renowned for its gourmet cuisine, has dozens of local producers and agritourism locations (www.easterntownships.org/tag/296/ createurs-de-saveurs-local-producers) as well as a number of Village Cafés (www. easterntownships.org/taste-the-townships).
Montréal counts more than 400 chefs including many top names. But it is also famous for bagels (St-Viateur and Fairmount) and smoked meat (Schwartz’s and Main Deli). The city is host to around 40 annual food festivals and events, from the most famous Montréal Highlights Festival to La Poutine Week (www.lapoutineweek.com).
In the Laurentians, the Chemin du Terroir is a signposted trail that takes travellers through more than 226 km (140 mi.) of country backroads and byways, with delicious food and drink discoveries at every turn (www.laurentides.com/en/ chemin-du-terroir).
THE GLORY OF SEAFOOD
The culinary scene has exploded in Nova Scotia. The Seafood Trail brings together the Chowder Trail and the Lobster Trail to offer a collection of restaurant, retail and fishery experiences that highlight the province’s incredible seafood products (www.novascotia.com/eat-drink/novascotia-seafood-trail).
In New Brunswick, travellers can build their own trail to farmers’ markets, restaurants and sites via the website (www.tourism newbrunswick.ca/See/FoodAndDrink.aspx). There are tasty snacks hard to find anywhere else, like dulse—a salty sea treat—and hearty Acadian dishes. Visitors to Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar will meet owner Dr. Cornel
Ceapa (a PhD in sturgeon biology) who raises sturgeon to sell around the world.
The PEI Flavours Culinary Trail guides people to the Island’s distinct regions, each with its own culinary traditions, as well as to restaurants, farmers, fishers and local markets (www.peiflavours.ca). In Fortune Bay, long-time Islander and Food Network Chef Michael Smith has transformed the restaurant at The Inn at Bay Fortune into FireWorks, where a 25-foot brick-lined, wood-burning fireplace in the centre of the restaurant is the anchor for the
“Fire Kitchen”—every dish is cooked over fire (www.innatbayfortune.com). The International Shellfish Festival includes shucking competitions using local Malpeque, one of the world’s finest oysters; about ten million are harvested every year (www.peishellfish.com).
Newfoundland is known for its seafood and traditional dishes such as salt fish and brewis (made with hard tack or dry bread) and Jiggs’ dinner (boiled salted beef and vegetables). At remote and gorgeous Fogo Island Inn, ingredients that most often find their way onto guests’ plates are those that are fished, farmed, and foraged right on the Island: scallops with parsnips and rhubarb jelly, salt cod and shaved turnip, roasted cabbage and bakeapples (www.fogoislandinn.ca).
WILD HARVESTS UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN
In the Yukon, Michele Genest and Beverley Gray are authors of the books The Boreal Gourmet and The Boreal Herbal, respectively. They explain what you can harvest in the “Land of the Midnight Sun.” At Gray’s Aroma Borealis Herb Shop in Whitehorse, visitors can arrange to join her on a foraging outing (www.aromaborealis.com). Michele Genest offers workshops and events, along with her latest cook book, The Boreal Feast (www. borealgourmet.com). In the Northwest Territories “Shopping in the Boreal Forest” is an interpretive walk with biologist Rosie Strong (www.experienceyellowknife.com/ packaged-tours/#tour-73).
Whatever their fancy, wherever travellers go in Canada, they are sure to find their taste nirvana.